Mass Media: Coverage, Objectivity, and Changes

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Objectivity is a broad term, but has been commonly interpreted to mean the reporting of news in an impartial and unbiased way by finding and verifying facts, reporting facts accurately, separating facts from values, and giving two sides of an issue equal attention to make news reports balanced. Advocacy journalism, by contrast, presents news from a distinct point of view, a perspective that often aligns with a specific political ideology. It does not separate facts from values and is less concerned with presenting reports that are conventionally balanced.

Environmental reporters have found it difficult to categorize their work as either objective or advocacy journalism, because studies show that many of them are sympathetic to environmental values even as they strive to be rigorously professional in their reporting.

Reporters aimed to be fair by giving both viewpoints equal attention, a practice scholars have labeled false balance.

The reporting of climate change has changed over time, especially as the topic moved from the scientific domain to encompass also the political, social, legal, and economic realms. Objectivity and advocacy remain important guiding concepts for environmental journalism today, but they have been reconfigured in the digital era that has transformed climate change news. Objectivity can also be viewed as a transparent method for finding, verifying, and communicating facts. Objectivity can also be seen as the synthesis and curation of multiple points of view.

In a pluralistic media ecosystem, there are now multiple forms of advocacy journalism that present climate coverage from various points of view—various forms of climate coverage with a worldview. False balance had declined dramatically over time in mainstream reportorial sources, but it remains a pitfall for reporters to avoid in coverage of two climate change topics: the presentation of the many potential future impacts or risks and the coverage of different policy responses in a climate-challenged society.

Keywords: journalistic objectivity , advocacy journalism , false balance , climate change news , environmental journalism , science journalism. Access to the complete content on Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Climate Science requires a subscription or purchase. Public users are able to search the site and view the abstracts and keywords for each book and chapter without a subscription. If you are a student or academic complete our librarian recommendation form to recommend the Oxford Research Encyclopedias to your librarians for an institutional free trial. Please subscribe or login to access full text content.

If you have purchased a print title that contains an access token, please see the token for information about how to register your code. For questions on access or troubleshooting, please check our FAQs , and if you can't find the answer there, please contact us. Network news similarly misrepresents the victims of poverty by using more images of blacks than whites in its segments.

Viewers in a study were left believing African Americans were the majority of the unemployed and poor, rather than seeing the problem as one faced by many races. The misrepresentation of race is not limited to news coverage, however. A study of images printed in national magazines, like Time and Newsweek , found they also misrepresented race and poverty. The magazines were more likely to show images of young African Americans when discussing poverty and excluded the elderly and the young, as well as whites and Latinos, which is the true picture of poverty.

Racial framing, even if unintentional, affects perceptions and policies. If viewers are continually presented with images of African Americans as criminals, there is an increased chance they will perceive members of this group as violent or aggressive. Word choice may also have a priming effect.

Journalistic objectivity

Media coverage of women has been similarly biased. The lack of women in the newsroom, politics, and corporate leadership encouraged silence. She was met with great hostility from her coanchor Harry Reasoner and received critical coverage from the press. Would it make them appear weak? Would they be taken from their coveted beats? Strength of numbers allowed them to be confident when covering issues like health care, childcare, and education. The Center for American Women in Politics researches the treatment women receive from both government and the media, and they share the data with the public.

Early coverage was sparse.

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Women were seen as a novelty rather than as serious contenders who needed to be vetted and discussed. Modern media coverage has changed slightly. One study found that female candidates receive more favorable coverage than in prior generations, especially if they are incumbents. The historically negative media coverage of female candidates has had another concrete effect: Women are less likely than men to run for office. One common reason is the effect negative media coverage has on families.

Some articles focused on her qualifications to be a potential future president or her record on the issues.

But others questioned whether she had the right to run for office, given she had young children, one of whom has developmental disabilities. So women with young children may wait until their children are grown before running for office, if they choose to run at all.

Re-thinking Objectivity - Columbia Journalism Review

Writers began to formally study media bias in the s. Initially, the press was seen as being able to place information in our minds, but later research found that the media have a minimal effect on recipients. A more recent theory is that the media cultivates our reality by presenting information that creates our perceptions of the world.

The media does have the ability to frame what it presents, and it can also prime citizens to think a particular way, which changes how they react to new information. Sound bites from candidates are shorter. The press now provides horse-race coverage on the campaigns rather than in-depth coverage on candidates and their positions, forcing voters to look for other sources, like social media, for information.

Current coverage of the government focuses more on what the president does than on presidential policies. Congress, on the other hand, is rarely affected by the media. Most topics discussed by the media are already being discussed by members of Congress or its committees. The media frame discussions and choose pictures, information, and video to support stories, which may affect the way people vote on social policy and in elections.

Baum, Matthew A. Cohen, Jeffrey. The Presidency in the Era of Hour News. Eshbaugh-Soha, Matthew, and Jeffrey Peake. Graber, Doris A. Mass Media and American Politics. PIyengar, Shanto. New York: W. Iyengar, Shanto, and Donald R. Chicago: University Of Chicago Press. Lawless, Jennifer L. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Malecha, Gary, and Daniel J. New York: Routledge. Patterson, Thomas. New York: Vintage.

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Rozell, Mark, and Jeremy Mayer. Media Power, Media Politics. Skip to main content. Module 8: The Media. Search for:. The Impact of the Media Learning Objectives By the end of this section, you will be able to: Identify forms of bias that exist in news coverage and ways the media can present biased coverage Explain how the media cover politics and issues Evaluate the impact of the media on politics and policymaking.

Practice Questions How might framing or priming affect the way a reader or viewer thinks about an issue?

  • Local Politics and the Dynamics of Property in Africa.
  • By James Harkin.
  • Is This Digital Era Affecting Journalistic Objectivity?.

Why would inaccurate coverage of race and gender affect policy or elections? If we are presented with a reality, it affects the way we vote and the policies we support. In what ways can the media change the way a citizen thinks about government? In what ways do the media protect people from a tyrannical government? Should all activities of the government be open to media coverage? Why or why not? In what circumstances do you think it would be appropriate for the government to operate without transparency?

Have changes in media formats created a more accurate, less biased media? How does citizen journalism use social media to increase coverage of world events? Show References Baum, Matthew A. Fellow, Anthony R. American Media History. Boston: Cengage.

Covering Climate Change

West, Darrell M. Air Wars. Walter Lippmann. Public Opinion. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Robert Lichter. New York: Macmillan. May 28, The Presidential Difference. Baumgartner, Bryan D. Jones, and Beth L. Politicians, Voters, and Reporters in America , eds. Shanto Iyengar and Richard Reeves. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. News That Matters.

Mass Media: Coverage, Objectivity, and Changes
Mass Media: Coverage, Objectivity, and Changes
Mass Media: Coverage, Objectivity, and Changes
Mass Media: Coverage, Objectivity, and Changes
Mass Media: Coverage, Objectivity, and Changes
Mass Media: Coverage, Objectivity, and Changes

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